As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 5, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski
Last week was a milestone for Yukon seniors and their families, as your government unveiled its plans for the Whistle Bend continuing care facility.
As we shared the design for this beautiful new care home, I could not have been more proud – of our government and the ministers who shepherded this project to this stage; of our staff and caregivers who have worked so hard to get us here; and of our community, as we all pulled together to overcome criticism and to rally around a project that will benefit all Yukoners for many years to come.
Health care has always been a priority for our government, and a great deal of work has gone into the development of the plans for this facility. Long-term studies were done, as well as a needs-driven analysis of continuing care in Yukon.
We talked to Yukoners, and, as always, we listened to what you were saying. What we heard was a simple and clear reflection of the Yukon that we all love.
You told us that it’s important that all of us can, if needed, be confident we will have a place to get the care we need and a place we can call home.
We heard from many Yukoners, including health-care professionals, about the urgent need for more continuing care beds. And we heard about the need for a facility that would be a comfortable and caring environment for Yukon seniors and others with complex medical needs.
We know there are people waiting for beds, and we know that their number will only grow. As our population ages, more and more Yukoners will be looking for a way to spend their entire lives here, close to their homes and their loved ones, rather than moving south.
This project responds to those needs, and is testament to your government’s commitment to make Yukon the best place to live, work, play and raise a family.
We have increased our support for seniors in other ways as well. With appropriate assistance, many can remain in their homes, have their care needs met and maintain their independence. To that end, our government has steadily and consistently increased the budget for home care to ensure all Yukoners can benefit. In 2002/2003, the annual budget for home care was just over $2 million. In the 2015/2016 budget it is just under $6 million – a significant increase in funding to help elders stay in their own homes longer.
Some have said that we don’t need this new continuing care facility, or that it isn’t worth the investment. Frankly, those people couldn’t be more wrong.
Others have called the 150-bed facility a “warehouse” for seniors, which is an insult to valued members of our community. We are not talking about goods that can be shelved and forgotten; we are talking about elders who deserve our love and respect. This will not be an institution; it will be a home.
Our seniors and their families not only need this facility, they deserve it. This government believes in supporting those who built this territory by giving them a safe and caring place to live.
Not building this facility would amount to turning our backs on our family members at the time in their lives when they need us most. I and my Cabinet colleagues have no intention of taking that approach to health care.
That’s what leadership is about – finding ways to make positive change, rather than just tearing down projects and people for political gain.
The positive impacts of this project will be felt far and wide.
It will provide state-of-the-art care for our seniors, and for others who are in need of full-time residential care. It will also provide much-needed respite to overwhelmed families who lack the resources to provide for the needs of their loved ones.
We’re also putting Yukoners to work. Our local contracting community is getting ready to build one of the most progressive continuing care facilities not just in Yukon, but in Canada.
We’re pleased to be moving forward with a world-class design-build team that’s becoming one of Yukon’s most important health-care construction partners: PCL Constructors Westcoast.
And, when this beautiful care home is completed, there will be more job opportunities for Yukoners. There will be brand new health-care jobs and new advancement opportunities for those already working in the field.
We know that the facility will be a good and valued neighbor in the rapidly growing Whistle Bend subdivision, just as Copper Ridge Place, Macaulay Lodge and McDonald Lodge have become in their neighborhoods.
I eagerly await the day, in 2018, when the first residents move into their new home. We promised respite, quality care and peace of mind to our valued elders. On that day, that is exactly what they will have.